Analysis determined between 1.04 million and 1.61 million (1.32 million estimate) foreign-born persons were living with chronic hepatitis B in the U.S. in 2009. Chronically infected emigrants were mainly from Asia, Africa, and Central America, accounting for 58 percent, 11 percent and 7 percent of the foreign burden of disease in the U.S., respectively. "Our analysis suggests the total prevalence of chronic HBV is significantly higher, exceeding two million cases or twice the number previously reported," says Kowdley.
Senior author, Dr. Carol Brosgart, a member of the faculty at the Division of Global Health, UCSF and Senior Advisor on Science and Policy to the Viral Hepatitis Action Coalition at the CDC Foundation added, "This study highlights an important health concern for the U.S. and the need for broader hepatitis B screening of foreign-born individuals. Given our ability to treat chronic HBV and to monitor for emergence of liver cancer when it is treatable, physicians should screen the foreign-born, their children and close contacts. If these individuals do not have chronic infection and are not immune, then they are good candidates for HBV immunization. Hepatitis B is a serious infection with the risk of long-term consequences of cirrhosis, end-stage liver disease, liver cancer and premature death. Today this is a disease that we can prevent and we can treat."
In a related editorial also published in Hepatology, Drs. John Ward, the director of the Division of Viral Hepatitis (DVH) at the CDC and Kathy Byrd, a medical epidemiologist in the DVH, note, "The study by Kowdley and colleagues provides evidence that numerous and diverse foreign-born populations in the U.S. are at risk for chronic hepatitis B. Nearly 3.5 percent of all foreign-born persons in the U.S. are living with this disease—a rate more than 10-fold higher than the prevalence of the general U.S. population." The editorial authors further emphasize the need for culturally specific services along with expanded HBV testing and linkage to care and treatment to prevent new infections, liver disease and cancer.
Hepatitis sickens millions around the world and kills one million people each year according to the World Hepatitis Alliance. The World Hepatitis Alliance in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) have designated July 28, 2012 as World Hepatitis Day to raise awareness of viral hepatitis.
Reference: Prevalence of Chronic Hepatitis B among Foreign-Born Persons Living in the United States by Country of Origin. Kris V. Kowdley, Chia C. Wang, Sue Welch, Henry Roberts, and Carol L. Brosgart. Hepatology; Published Online: February 16, 2012 (DOI: 10.1002/hep.24804); Print Issue: July 2012.